The Centre and the Telangana government have yet again locked horns over rabi season’s rice procurement . While the Union government insists that it would buy only white rice, the Telangana government demands either procuring parboiled rice or paddy from the farmers in the season.

Piyush Goyal, the Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Commerce and Industry, has said that the Centre would buy white rice and stood committed to buying the excess stocks as per quality standards from Telangana.

Alleging that the State government was misleading farmers on the issue of rice procurement, he argued that the aggregate value of the paddy procured from the State had gone up to ₹26,610 crore in 2020-21 against ₹3,391 crore in 2014-15, the year the State was formed.

“The Central government stands committed to buy whatever excess stocks are there in Telangana, after their own consumption, in the form of white rice and as per the quality specified by Food Corporation of India (FCI), as per the MoU with the Centre, as was committed by the State government in writing to the Union government,” he said in Delhi on Wednesday.

The knotty issue

On the other hand, a delegation of Ministers and MPs from the State presently camping in Delhi, argued that the conversion rate from paddy to rice in the rabi season was too low. Terming the Union Minister’s comments as unfortunate, Telangana Agriculture Minister S Niranjan Reddy said that it was the responsibility of the Centre to buy paddy.

“Since the grain is exposed to very high temperatures in March and April, it turns brittle and when you mill it, it breaks. If you want white rice, you will get very less of it,” a TRS Member of Parliament said.

Since the rabi paddy grain, unlike the kharif, breaks heavily during milling. The millers boil the paddy for parboiled rice, with limited or no takers. This is why the Centre doesn’t want to procure parboiled rice from the State.

Last year, the Centre had asked the State government to give it in writing that it won’t be supplying parboiled rice henceforth. Piyush Goyal alleged that the State government had not shared any information on the quantum of white rice that it would supply this season. He said that the Centre procured the rice based on the consumption pattern and demand from various States, hinting that since parboiled rice had no takers, it would be difficult to procure it.

Worried Telangana govt

The State government is worried because the farmers continued to sow paddy extensively this rabi, despite its caution not to go for the crop. As against the average acreage of 30 lakh acres for the season, the farmers sowed in 34-35 lakh acres as against the government’s decreased target of about 15-20 lakh acres.

“This is about 20 lakh acres lower than the last year. We could convince the farmers this year. We demand the Centre to buy all of the produce as it does in Punjab,” Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had said, kicking off the debate for the second consecutive year.

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